The Many Benefits of Extra Virgin Olive Oil

I've always loved the Mediterranean lifestyle which I enjoy in short bursts on holiday and visiting my mum who lives in Cyprus. The combination of warm sun and the fabulous traditional food means I eat more healthily and am more likely to exercise. I mean, I'm talking seaside walks and laps of a warm swimming pool not marathons.

Olive oil and extra virgin olive oil plays a big part of diet in many cultures where we like to go on our vacations but thankfully nowadays it's easy to replicate those gorgeous healthy holiday faves at home.

glass of olive oil on wood block with olive branches:Photo by blackieshoot on Unsplash

Obviously you could substitute other oils like sunflower, rapeseed and other vegetable oils in recipes but especially those which call for extra virgin olive oil depend on exactly that for flavour and health benefits.

Let's start by looking at those health benefits. 

All types of olive oil can guard against heart disease, strokes and, according to some studies, olive oil can prevent Alzheimer's Disease or slow progress of the condition. Apparently the benefits can be seen both in those who follow a Mediterranean diet and those who use olive oil in their own cultural dishes.

Extra Virgin Olive oil may also been beneficial for those with inflammatory diseases. The Arthritis Foundation website states:"Extra virgin olive oil (EVOO) has been studied for its protective benefits in inflammatory autoimmune diseases like rheumatoid arthritis and lupus. Human, animal and lab experiments have shown that the polyphenols in EVOO effectively combat inflammation and improve arthritis symptoms in joints and throughout the body."

Diabetics- including olive oil in your diet can help manage blood glucose levels. This is because olive oil is rich in healthy monounsaturated fats which help to process sugars in your food making it easier to use them for energy. 

Which Olive Oil?

Olive oil varies in taste and viscosity depending on where and how it was made. Extra Virgin Olive oil in the least processed olive oil and is particularly nice on salads, dressings, raw dishes and sauces but contrary to popular belief is fine for cooking with - roasting, sauteeing and baking with temperatures of up to 190c/375F as long as you choose a good quality oil.

olive oil bottle in kitchen:Photo by Edgar Castrejon on Unsplash

You may have spotted "refined" olive oils which promise fewer calories and fat but the refining process can strip the oil of some of the health benefits. Opt for Organic Olive Oil for a top quality product with maximum benefits and minimum contamination.

As to which is the "best" flavour wise that really depends on personal taste. Treat olive oil and extra virgin olive oil like wine - try different types from different regions like Greece, Morocco, Italy, Tunisia and Turkey. Olive oil is always on my holiday shopping list (I buy the tins not glass bottles and wrap them well in my hold luggage.) Some airports including Paphos airport sell olive oil after security so you are not restricted i quantity. Disregard the colour and just go on taste

Online shopping is a great way to discover new oils and they make the perfect gift for that person you always struggle to buy for. Apart from culinary use, olive oil is great for conditioning hair, and hydrating nails, skin. Add a few drops to a bath for glowing hydrated skin, dab an oil coated cotton bud on a sticking zipper to free it or use it to soften and polish leather - the list of uses for olive oil is very long! Just keep an eye on expiration dates and store your precious oil away from heat and too much light.